Puerto Rico citrus crops under threat of bacteria
The Huanglongbing bacteria, commonly known as “Citrus Greening,” is ravaging citrus crops and production along Puerto Rico’s central mountainous region, San Sebastían-area farmers said this week.
The bacteria, which is transmitted through the citrus psyllid insect, has already destroyed a large quantity of trees, mainly in the aforementioned town, where about 800 acres are dedicated to citrus crops including oranges, mandarins, grapefruits and limes, the farmers said in a statement.
The “Citrus Greening” bacteria arrived to the island in 2001, but it was not until 2009 that its presence was confirmed, farmers said. Affected trees produce deformed fruit that fall to the ground before ripening, as its limbs slowly dry up.
The farmers have turned to mayor Javier Jiménez-Pérez for help, who responded Tuesday with a petition to the central government to declare the town a disaster area to be able to receive funds to address the problem.
Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas has already assigned agency staff to evaluate the economic blow resulting from this plague, concluding that some $8.5 million will be need to manage the problem.
“Unfortunately, Comas has said her agency doesn’t have the funds,” the group said in the statement signed by farmers Jorge Méndez-Roig and Pablo Rodríguez. “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Ramón Ruiz-Nieves submitted a resolution on June 18 that is awaiting approval to assign the funds to the agency.”
“Despite the fact that San Sebastián has the climate and the lands to produce citrus crops during most of the year, today, more than 80 percent of its crops are dead,” the farmers said.